Spurning Colin Powell

Posted: Mar 23, 2002 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Colin Powell telephoned Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle seeking action before the Easter recess on what he termed three bills linked to national security, but the Senate adjourned Thursday for 10 days without acting. Powell was pushing for measures to help President Bush's visit to Latin America: Andean trade, border security and amnesty for illegal aliens. Bush aides grumbled that Daschle managed to pass a campaign finance reform bill that will take effect after the 2002 elections, but did not schedule the time-sensitive measures. The illegal alien bill faces tough opposition. Democratic Sen. Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina leads its foes, but he has support from a top Republican conservative -- Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma. NEXT JUDICIAL TARGET With Federal District Judge Charles Pickering of Mississippi defeated for nomination to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, another nominee of President Bush for that court is likely to be targeted by Senate Democrats: Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen. The case against Owen, a conservative, involves her ruling in favor of the Enron Corp. in a 1996 tax case after receiving a judicial campaign contribution from the company. She received $8,600 from Enron out of $134,058 it gave to state Supreme Court members. The court ruled unanimously in Enron's favor in the tax case. A footnote: Although Senate Democrats are stalling Bush's appellate nominees while permitting lower court choices to be confirmed, they may target University of Utah Prof. Paul Cassell's nomination for the federal district court in Utah. Cassell, a former federal prosecutor, is an advocate of replacing the Miranda rule. DEMOCRATIC SENATE WOES Sen. Tim Hutchinson, the first Republican ever elected to the Senate from Arkansas, may be overcoming personal difficulties in his second-term bid. That increases pessimism among Democratic strategists about retaining their one-seat margin in the Senate. Opposed by Democratic State Attorney General Mark Pryor (son of former Sen. David Pryor), Hutchinson was considered highly vulnerable because of his divorce and marriage to a former aide. However, a Feb. 17-19 survey that Hutchinson commissioned by national pollster Ed Goeas gave him an 11-point lead among most likely voters. Conservative Christians favored Hutchinson over Pryor by 40 percentage points. Democratic strategists calculate that they must capture at least two Republican Senate seats to keep their Senate majority. They view their best hope as New Hampshire, where Sen. Bob Smith is being challenged in the Republican primary by Rep. John E. Sununu. Next to Smith, the most vulnerable GOP incumbent may be Sen. Wayne Allard of Colorado. S.O.S. FROM LIDDY Contributors to Republican Elizabeth Dole's North Carolina campaign this week received an appeal for $250 or $500 to combat "a viciously negative TV ad campaign against me" by the North Carolina Democratic Party. "It didn't take long for our opponents to unleash their first negative attacks against me," Dole's letter began. The state's Democrats have tried to link her with the Enron scandal. Requesting an "emergency contribution," she enclosed a pre-paid Federal Express envelope. A footnote: Democratic contributors around the country received an appeal from former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt in behalf of former State House Speaker Dan Blue. Blue is running third in the Democratic Senate primary behind Erskine Bowles, former White House chief of staff, and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall. Gantt and Blue are both African-Americans. THE CABINET'S DEMOCRAT Republican criticism of Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, the only Democrat in President Bush's Cabinet, is rising because of his opposition to arming airline pilots. The new airline security act allows individual airlines, with the approval of the Transportation Department, to decide whether to arm pilots. Mineta is opposed to the provision. So is Jane Garvey, the Clinton administration holdover who is leaving as head of the Federal Aviation Administration. A footnote: Opposition by Mineta and Garvey is more than an aberration by two Democrats in a Republican administration. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge also opposes armed pilots -- suggesting that could be President Bush's position.